“When you go out and play in the National Football League, it’s one of those things where it’s even stupid to think about that” per the Boston Herald.
While it might seem a trivial act for reporters to trap Patriots players into speculating regular season success, what shouldn’t be discounted is the actual possibility of a Patriots undefeated season.
The New England Patriots Will Go Undefeated In 2017-18 Season
For the last decade, the Patriots have flirted with the possibility of going undefeated; having not lost more than four games in a regular season since 2010. Last year was no different; with the juggernauts of the AFC East boasting a 14-2 regular season coupled with a Super Bowl LI victory. After yet another title, it seems like there isn’t much more the team can do to break barriers in an era that they’ve seemingly dominated.
But they can go the distance. For this team, it’s definitely possible. In order to prove this below is an analysis of the team’s 2016 losses, their free agent signings this off-season, and a breakdown of their 2017 schedule.
Looking Back at 2016
Amidst all of the Roger Goodell – Tom Brady bromance, the organization found a way to sift through all of the antics. In Week four the team, (lead by an injured Jacoby Brissett), suffered a shutout defeat against the Buffalo Bills in Gillette stadium. Inexperience and an inability to manage turnovers plagued the Patriots this game. However, it’s very easy to assume that if Brady had returned a week earlier, things would’ve gone very differently (as evidenced when New England routed Buffalo on the road, 41-25, in Week eight. In fact, a gambler probably would have still placed a nice over-under on the Patriots even with Jimmy Garoppolo under center.
The team’s second loss (first loss after Brady’s return) came in a nail-biter vs. the Seattle Seahawks in Week ten. This game proved to be everything analysts expected it to be on paper: a crafty New England offense vs. a stout Seattle secondary. The game featured seven lead-changes, and ended with a fourth down goal line stand on a fade to Rob Gronkowski. Excluding the Brady-less defeat in Week four, this was the only true loss the Patriots suffered in 2016. Any critic would consider this a 50-50 game that was entirely winnable.
Those losses to the Bills and Seahawks the only two losses New England suffered last season, so it isn’t hard to make the jump to undefeated talk. Virtually the only ‘improvement’ the organization could make would be losing one game… or none.
Free Agency/Trade Acquisitions
Every year, there’s a decent amount of debate pertaining to which team ‘won’ free agency. What can’t be debated is whether or not the Patriots are in the center of that conversation. Like every other off-season, Bill Belichick and company didn’t compromise their philosophy of never settle, and never overpay. They traded draft-picks like Pokémon cards, and acquired big names for cheap.
Those acquisitions included Stephon Gilmore, Dwayne Allen, Kony Ealy, Mike Gillislee, and most importantly, Brandin Cooks; also known by New Orleans Saints fans as: “The Archer” (see my speculation article on him here). Some of these additions may be perceived as stopgaps, however, all have been proven starters in this league. The Patriots brand seemingly attracts stars that would’ve otherwise requested significantly more money to play for less successful teams. With the amount of talent that these players will add to the locker room, running the table seems much more plausible.
Fellow Patriots writer Stephen McGuire just released a nice series of articles discussing the easiest and most difficult games on the Patriots schedule for the 2017-18 season. While the order of difficulty on these teams might be debatable, what isn’t are the teams themselves. A few stick out: Oakland Raiders, Kansas City Chiefs, and of course the NFC Champion Atlanta Falcons. All of these teams have exceptional defenses, which is the one thing Patriot offenses seem to struggle with the most. However, in the past two years, the Patriots are undefeated against all of these teams, most notably beating them in high-pressure, playoff situations.
A couple of teams that might be in the wrong place on Stephen McGuire’s ranking are the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Denver Broncos. While the Steelers have one of the best offenses in the AFC, their defense has yet to mature to a playoff caliber (which is a necessity when trying to stop New England). The Broncos are the converse, boasting a world class defense with names like Von Miller, Aqib Talib, Chris Harris, and more, but they can’t seem to find that same continuity on offense.
A reoccurring pattern with the Patriots is that they tend to rest players against division rivals toward the end of the season, especially if they’ve locked up a first-round bye. However, if they were to win their first 12 games, Belichick would probably opt to play out the season with all hands on deck. Edeltron might disagree with this notion, but, in the 2017 season, the New England Patriots will go undefeated.